Despite being one of the most electrifying playmakers in college football, Kadarius Toney didn’t become a top-10 selection. In fact, three other receivers came off the board before the New York Giants drafted him 20th overall. Part of that had to do with a stacked class of wideouts. It also reflected some of the concerns teams had about the former Florida star’s future at the pro level.
In his first appearance in a Giants uniform, Toney caught plenty of attention for issues that had nothing to do with hauling in passes or running routes. Can he put his rocky start behind him? Because if New York plans on playing in the postseason, Dave Gettleman’s latest first-round investment on offense can’t afford to take his time to get things right.
Dave Gettleman took a gamble after trading down in the 2021 NFL draft
Giants fans experienced a breakthrough in the 2021 NFL draft. After refusing to trade down throughout his career as a general manager, Gettleman finally gave in. Of course, the Chicago Bears made that an easy decision by including their 2022 first-round pick in a deal that netted them a potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields.
After moving down from No. 11 to 20, New York came on the clock with a number of talented players still available. Cornerbacks Greg Newsome II, Eric Stokes, and Tyson Campbell remained on the board. Several intriguing defensive linemen (Gettleman’s favorite) also had yet to hear their names called. Yet, the Giants’ top personnel man chose to roll the dice on Toney.
The 6-foot, 193-pound wideout improved his draft stock significantly in his final year at UF. Prior to 2020, Toney had totaled 50 catches for 606 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 419 rushing yards and one touchdown on 37 carries. As a senior, though, he exploded for 70/984/10 while averaging 8.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts.
As somewhat of a one-year wonder, Toney didn’t boast the same level of production as some of the other top receivers in the draft. Plus, questions about his maturity made him something of a boom-or-bust prospect.
Kadarius Toney has already started his career off on the wrong foot
The Toney experience didn’t get off to a good start. According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, the Giants’ top draft pick struggled with his footing in his first practice with the team. At one point, he conducted an individual position drill without only one cleat on.
So what exactly happened?
Toney reportedly fiddled with his right cleat during the early portion of Friday’s rookie minicamp practice. He later changed cleats, added and changed socks, and worked with both equipment and athletic training staff members. Raanan described Toney as looking “downright uncomfortable at times.”
The talented playmaker said the team got the wrong size before acknowledging the problem eventually got resolved. However, Toney did not partake in conditioning drills at the end of practice.
“You know what, first day on the field I think there’s a little bit of equipment issue,” Giants head coach Joe Judge said. “We have to get that straightened out and make sure our guys hit the field with equipment they are comfortable with. We’ll handle that, make sure it’s not an issue going forward.”
Will the Giants reap the rewards of investing in their offense?
The Giants haven’t finished as a top-10 scoring offense since 2015. Will that finally change this season?
Considering how much they’ve invested on overhauling the unit, it would be a massive disappointment if New York doesn’t take a substantial leap forward in 2021. Everything revolves around the growth of Daniel Jones, who has yet to demonstrate the consistency or ball security of a legitimate franchise quarterback. Luckily for the No. 6 overall pick from the 2018 NFL draft, he has a strong supporting cast around him.
In addition to drafting Toney, the Giants signed Kenny Golladay in free agency. When healthy, he has the ability to dominate as a true No. 1 receiver. If the former Detroit Lion stays on the field, he will make life much easier for Jones. Meanwhile, veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph doesn’t have much tread left on the tires, but the longtime Minnesota Viking can still make an impact as a big-bodied target in the red zone.
Saquon Barkley’s return will also play a major role in New York’s success. Can he rediscover his vintage form after undergoing knee surgery? Or will he struggle to regain his trademark explosiveness after suffering a serious injury?
If everything clicks, the Giants could be one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. But with so many question marks, it seems equally dangerous to count on that happening.